2011 Suzuki GSX1250FA Review
The old Bandit grows up into cost-effective sports tourer
A new motorcycle with sporting intentions but absent ground-breaking technology or a race-winning pedigree is easily overlooked. Enter the 2011 GSX1250FA, a semi-new model from Suzuki lacking advertising superlatives but delivering the essential qualities that comprise a competent motorcycle, i.e., performance and fun at an affordable price.
The Suzuki GSX1250FA is the bike a discerning motorcyclist will pick out of a line-up of overly specialized sportbikes or portly sport-tourers emphasizing the latter part of the compound title. Besides its standard equipment anti-lock brakes, the GSX1250FA is elemental in its construction and built to be ridden anywhere, anytime by a motorcyclist who values versatility over hyperbole.
Stripped of its Bandit moniker, in use since the Bandit 400’s U.S. introduction in 1991, the GSX1250FA also differs from its predecessor by way of full-fairing cosmetics. Less obvious upgrades include heavier fork springs and firmer rebound damping, and an additional radiator fan to compensate for the loss of airflow from the full-coverage bodywork.
Albeit the changes are minor, the bike’s new plastic-clad profile should generate interest from motorcyclists familiar with the previously naked or quarter-faired versions as well as those without knowledge of the GSX’s past nomenclature. And when those who previously dismissed the Bandit get a chance to test the GSX1250, they’re gonna be surprised by the bike’s well-mannered, universal performance.
The GSX1250FA’s engine is certainly one of the bike’s best qualities. With maximum torque at a V-Twin rpm (72.3 lb.-ft. at just 3,500) the GSX romps out of corners with a robustness that belies its modest 92.6 hp at 8,800 rpm dyno figure. The abundance of low-end power augments real-world usability and ensures you’re never left wanting when running a gear high or in need of emergency passing power. It should be noted, however, that as pleasurable and user-friendly as the fuel-injected 1255cc inline-Four is, considering its displacement, we were hoping for at least triple-digit horsepower numbers.
A surprising attribute of the GSX1250FA is its handling prowess, especially considering its low-tech tubular steel frame and 567-lb curb weight. It’s no Jenny Craig poster child, but in the canyons the GSX manages its weight well and will easily keep on the rear wheel of faster, lighter bikes piloted by lesser riders. Competitive models such as the new Kawasaki Ninja 1000 and Yamaha FZ1 are lighter and better handling, but without these bikes playing devil’s advocate, a GSX1250FA operator will be riding in ignorant bliss of the bike’s weight problem.
As capable as the GSX is in the canyons, it’s equally at home digesting freeway miles in commuter mode or during long-distance road trips. Ergonomics are comfortable with plenty of seat-to-footpeg legroom and a moderate reach to the superbike handlebars. The suspension is well-balanced on the plusher side for extended seat-time comfort. It’s only in the canyons, during aggressive braking and cornering, when the bike’s weight occasionally overwhelms the suspension, but otherwise the bike’s 43mm fork and single rear shock keep the GSX composed.
Throttle response from Suzuki’s Dual Throttle Valve fuel-injection system is faultless, delivering smooth controllable application of power at any rpm, and a stout clutch offers a wide engagement zone for smooth launches. The GSX’s triple-disc brakes provide a very firm lever and decent feedback to slow the GSX with confidence. Adjustable brake and clutch levers fit a variety of hand sizes.
The GSX’s ABS system is the bike’s most advanced technological component, but unless an emergency situation arises it’s a system that runs unnoticed in the background. I did pound the brakes a couple times to confirm the existence of the system was more than just stickers on the front fender. The system sends a familiar pulsating sensation through the levers when activated, but will stop the bike with authority. Equipped with ABS as standard, the GSX1250FA stands apart in its category.
For those with a penchant for traveling, the new full-fairing provides more protection from the elements than the old quarter-faired Bandit. However, we deemed the bike’s styling more reminiscent of an aftermarket lower cowl back-ordered from the late 1990s than a cutting-edge 2011 model. From the front, the GSX-R-derived stacked headlight is much more in vogue. Gusts coming over the windscreen hit my 5-foot-11 frame about mid-chest in a clean, non-turbulent flow of air. Suzuki also offers a more touring-oriented windscreen as well as a 37-liter top box and hard, lockable and detachable saddlebags, which can morph the GSX into a sporty big sport-touring rig.
The seat of the GSX1250FA provides a two-position height adjustment, altering from 31.7 to 32.5 inches, but changing over the seat tray to a different level is the most complicated processes of seat height adjustment we’ve ever encountered. You’ll want to pick the most appropriate level and leave the seat in that position.
Besides the child-proof seat, the GSX does possess two rarities a lot of future owners will respect. The first one is a centerstand. Yes, it adds a little weight and can limit cornering clearance when the bike is loaded with a passenger and gear, but this apparatus is essential for lubing and adjusting a chain whenever you’re away from home.
The other nicety is a pair of helmet locks located under the seat. I don’t know why manufacturers are leaving this simple addition off a lot modern motorcycles, but I’m tired of having to carry my helmet into a restaurant when it would be perfectly safe attached to the bike. Thank you, Suzuki, for using common sense and including this function on the GSX1250FA.
Carrying an MSRP of $11,599, the GSX1250FA is a bargain, especially considering ABS is included in this price. If you’re in the market for a new motorcycle that slots between a dedicated sport-tourer and a sporty standard, the GSX1250FA should be on your list of considerations. Its best selling point is its engine that delivers locomotive-like power when and where you need it, and its handling easily exceeded our expectations.
So if you can swing a test ride from your local dealer, give the GSX a chance. You’ll probably be as pleasantly surprised as we were.